Evaluation utilization is the most important step in the evaluation process – and one that can be overlooked by both the evaluand and evaluator. For evaluators, time in the field is often limited and extremely busy. Similarly, evaluand stakeholders will have a variety of activities, implementation or monitoring for example, to complete while an evaluation is ongoing. Finding the time for mutual discussion is tough, but incredibly important.
Thankfully there’s a new handbook out to help with this exact problem, Utilization Focused Evaluation: A Primer for Evaluators.
But the major challenge to evaluation utilization (I can only speak to the field of peacebuilding, but would suspect similar dynamics in other fields) seems to lie with the evaluand: the evaluation commissioners, primary audiences, and users of the evaluation. The seemingly pervasive, field-wide challenge of evaluation utilization might suggest a cultural issue relating to values and how those values shape our priorities.
Hot Resource! Starting on the Same Page: A Lessons Report from the Peacebuilding Evaluation Project by Melanie Kawano-Chiu (particularly pages 22-25)
Of course evaluators have a role to play in any solution to this challenge, but we mustn't overlook the role we (evaluation users) can play.
One way around these challenges may be to clearly outline the steps that need to be taken throughout the evaluation process. We at Search for Common Ground took an initial try at this earlier this year in a publication entitled Back to Basics: A Compilation of Best Practices in Design, Monitoring & Evaluation in Fragile and Conflict-affected Environments [DFID: 2013] (coming soon on the Learning Portal!).
Evaluation Utilisation Checklist for Evaluation Users
Key users consulted throughout the evaluation preparation stage.
Key user priorities are clearly reflected throughout the evaluation design:
Terms of Reference includes an explicit requirement that evaluator either:
Evaluation Management & Implementation
Key users consulted and feedback incorporated into evaluation design on:
Key users actively appraised of progress throughout evaluation.
Key users involved in interpreting data and drawing conclusions.
Evaluation Report & Findings
Finalisation of evaluation report includes input from evaluation manager and key users.
Evaluator-led presentation to and/or discussion with key users on the findings including facilitated Q&A on the implications of findings for current and future programming.
Dissemination mechanisms and strategies consistent with key user needs.
Evaluator prepared action brief responding to and detailing how findings will be used.
End of evaluation assessment by evaluator to appraise key user satisfaction on the evaluation process, its findings and their inclusion throughout.
Post-evaluation assessment by evaluator to determine if, how, and why key users have used evaluation findings.
What would you add to this list?